Winter is still on the roads: Tips for safe driving in February

by Zutobi · Updated May 03, 2023

February is a month with a high number of traffic fatalities on the roads. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2020, there were 2,674 traffic deaths in the US, a 12% increase from the previous year. Whether it’s snow, sleet or ice, winter weather can cause extremely dangerous road conditions. In 2020, there were estimated 25,000 injury crashes that occurred in wintry conditions.

It’s always a good idea to review safe driving tips during the cold season to minimize the chances of an accident or injury on the road.

For those drivers who live in areas with nearly perpetual snow during the winter, it can be easy to assume that roads are taken care of and drivers are aware and taking needed precautions. If snow and ice are only an occasional concern, it can be tempting to assume that roads are safer than they actually are. Here are the Zutobi experts’ top 10 reminders of how to keep you and your loved ones safe on the road this winter.

Reminder One: If in doubt, stay home

If upcoming weather conditions look potentially threatening and your community is preparing by canceling events, postponing start times, or scheduling school snow days, plan to wait out the weather if possible. It’s always safer to stay off questionable roads than to venture out unless absolutely necessary. The fewer cars that are on snow-covered or icy roads, the less likely accidents will occur and the more likely emergency personnel can get to places where they are most needed.

Reminder Two: Plan extra time

If you must go out in bad weather, be sure to leave extra early and give yourself time to get to your destination. Speeding on icy roads is an extra bad idea. You will also reduce your stress if you know you have plenty of time.

Reminder Three: Be sure your car is in good condition

Although it’s always a good idea to properly maintain your vehicle in any weather condition, it’s particularly important during the winter. For example, making sure your windshield wiper fluid is full can significantly improve your visibility on salt-covered roads. Keep your gas tank at least half full so you reduce the risk of getting stranded on an empty tank, and make sure tires and brakes are in good working condition.

Reminder Four: Employ rarely used features properly

Every vehicle has rarely used features that can be particularly helpful during the winter months. For example, driving in the lower gears in both manual and automatic transmission vehicles can help you increase your traction on slippery roads. You may want to use your parking brake more frequently, especially if you park on inclines during the winter. However, use caution when turning on your high beam headlights as the reflection from the snow can actually make it more difficult to see.

Reminder Five: Don’t forget basic safety rules

Regardless of the season, remembering to fasten your seatbelt, adjust your mirrors appropriately, clear all your windows, and focus on driving will serve you well. Do not use cell phones or text while driving and try to minimize distractions. Be sure you are not under the influence of alcohol, drugs, medication, or lack of sleep.

Reminder Six: Increase the space around you

When you are on the road, it’s important to keep as much space around your vehicle as possible. The easiest way is to increase the following distance between you and the car in front of you. However, if you can avoid driving right next to other vehicles or within a pack of cars, you will give yourself greater room in case you or anyone around you slides or momentarily loses control.

Reminder Seven: Be aware of dangerous road sections

Every driver has seen the warning signs that caution should be taken on bridges because they freeze faster and melt slower than other areas of the roadway. However, it’s also important to be extra careful on curves and on areas where the road is shaded from the sun. Conditions such as black ice, where a transparent sheet of frozen water is not easily visible, can easily lurk in these spots.

Reminder Eight: Remember what to do if you skid

For some reason, it’s human instinct to do exactly the wrong things when you start to unexpectedly slide on an icy road. Remember that it can be dangerous to slam on the brakes and to try to overcorrect your steering if you lose control of your vehicle. Instead, take your foot off the accelerator and steer gently in the direction of the skid. Thinking about this before it actually happens can help you stay calm and react more safely in an emergency situation.

Reminder Nine: Prepare for emergencies

It’s also a good idea to carry extra items in your car during the winter. For example, it’s a good idea to have jumper cables, extra blankets, a snow shovel, sand or kitty litter in case your car gets stuck, a flashlight, warning devices, and extra food and water. Make sure your cell phone is fully charged before you leave.

Reminder Ten: Skip the Cruise Control

The cruise control feature can reduce stress in good weather, dry conditions, but it’s not meant to be used during winter storms, on icy roads, or in other inclement weather. When driving is unpredictable, it’s critical for you to stay extremely focused in both your steering and your speed so you can quickly react to dangerous situations.

We hope these reminders will help you and your loved ones stay safe this winter. For more information about driver safety, check out other Zutobi resources.

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